Author: Bear Grylls (Man vs. Wild)
Title: To My Sons
Publisher: David C. Cook

You can learn a lot about the Grylls family by picking up the small book To My Sons by Bear Grylls. Best known for his feats on the television show Man Vs. Wild, Grylls opens up to the reader immensely in this tribute to his three little boys. Like his wife’s book (reviewed here), To My Sons is a tiny tome of anecdotes, generally related to manhood and other life advice.

The first words of advice Bear leaves his sons are: “Aim to live a wild, generous, full, exciting life – blessing those around you and seeing the good in all.” This perhaps is unsurprising. After all, Bear Grylls is famous for his adventuresome exploits, particularly being the youngest person on record to climb Mt. Everest. Surely he would be eager to impart to his boys the same vivid appreciation of life.

But some things are softer, more surprising. In many places he exhorts his boys to be vulnerable, citing that real bonds can only come from honesty. Flipping through the pages of the book, here are some things I discovered about this renowned adventurer:

  • He believes that manners make the man; loyalty is the mark of a man; and the measure of a man is to be “especially kind, thoughtful and generous to those who are overlooked in life.”
  • He loves his wife and their boys more than anything in the world, and never hesitates to bring it up.
  • He believes in smiling, laughing, and cheerfulness – no matter how bleak things look.
  • He believes that the body ought to be in good alignment: “Exercise at least every other day – make it a habit. Then you will shine even brighter.”
  • He believes that the alignment of the spirit to the love of Christ is even more important, exhorting his boys to remember such verses as: “We are the sweet smell of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

I think some fabulous things would happen if fathers remembered to tell these things to their boys, if boys picked this book up and began to live by these tidbits of Godly wisdom. Little boys would grow up knowing that it’s ok to cry and be weak sometimes. That having a few friends you can trust is more valuable than an adoring crowd you cannot trust. That the work we choose to do can have a tremendous effect on our life and the lives of others – if we let it.

One place in the book stuck out to me enormously. On the left-hand page was a single line of wisdom: “Nobility is not a birthright – how we act in the big moments defines who we are.” On the right-hand page, just next to it, is a little sketch depicting that very sentiment. An old woman is walking in the rain, and next to her is a king (crown, royal robes, and all). The king is walking alongside her, stretching his arm around her shoulders as though to help her through the puddles or even just shield her a bit from the downpour. “Thank you, your majesty,” she says simply, in a line of dialogue which floats above their heads.

What an example for our sons. There are hundreds of movies, books, pictures, and more which showcase kings and princes coming to the aid of beautiful young maidens. But Bear Grylls wishes to tell his boys that nobility means helping and loving because the help and love are needed. Because help and love are what Christ calls us to do. Many young men strut about as though they own the world: proud of their wealth, their looks, their degrees, their skills. But those men are not kings, Grylls gently reminds us. A true king is known by how he protects those in his care, those who are not strong enough to protect themselves.